SPECIALIST LEGAL COSTS INSURANCE PROVIDER LAUNCHED

Specialist Legal Costs Insurance provider launched to target major insurer, broker and affinity business

Arc Legal Assistance (Arc), a new breed of legal costs insurance providers, is launched today targeting large bespoke legal expenses accounts of insurers, brokers and affinity groups.

Established by former senior staff from Capita Assistance and Amicus Legal, Arc will offer tailored legal costs insurance cover together with a range of other legal helplines and services.

The Arc team has developed a business model, which focuses on a working partnership between Arc and a small panel of high quality, experienced solicitor firms. The firms will provide the infrastructure to run the claims process, operate advice lines and provide a range of other legal services as part of a 'Legal Club' package. Irwin Mitchell solicitors is the first firm to join the Arc 'Partnership' panel.

Helen Withers, Managing Director of Arc commenting on how this business model compares with those of current legal expenses providers said: "Our business model starts with delivery of legal advice by the experts, ie the law firms. Our partner firms will also take on a much larger proportion of the claims process than they do with traditional providers. This leads to a highly streamlined and efficient service to policyholders.

"It also takes a significant element of cost out of the equation, while improving underwriting control. With the advantage of a fresh start and no legacy issues, we have been able to construct a model that fits the market as it is today. Our model is unique in the market and we believe that it represents a significant advance."

Irwin Mitchell will provide Arc customers with a telephone legal advice line from its call centre in Sheffield. Arc customers will have access to all departments of Irwin Mitchell when advice is required on complex or specialist matters. The telephone advice service can also direct callers seamlessly into the relevant department of the firm when more comprehensive legal services are required which goes far beyond the offering of a traditional legal helpline.

The Arc team, which has over 35 years experience of developing and managing legal expenses business in the UK, will provide full insurance scheme design, implementation and management services for clients. Richard Finan, a Director of Arc said: "The legal services industry has evolved over the last 20 years to respond to the opportunities a changing legal framework has provided; the legal expenses industry simply has not moved on.

"The fact that the claims and advice infrastructures are run by our partner solicitors means the Arc team can put a particular emphasis on managing client relationships. Each will be appointed a designated client relationship manager to supervise and manage all elements of the business from customer service delivery to management reports, to ensure that all issues are dealt with quickly and to maintain regular communications."

He continued: "We will provide a more customer focussed service, based on customer awareness and understanding, rather than the more traditional approach of ensuring that the cover maintains a low customer profile - a major criticism in the recent 'In Sure Hands' report sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation."

Arc has created a specific underwriting market providing access to a number of A or above rated insurers including Axa Assistance, and a number of underwriters at Lloyds.

"The creation of the Arc Underwriting Market is another innovative approach to the legal costs insurance industry, enabling us to place each bespoke contract on an individual basis with the most appropriate underwriter for the business to ensure that the best rates are secured for each client," added Finan.

Arc will offer a full range of before and after the event cover together with access to legal services including probate, divorce and will writing. Arc will be able develop 'legal clubs' for affinity groups combining the appropriate services to meet specific needs.

Frank O'Malley joins the Arc Management team on 1 May 2003.

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